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Florida Deadline Looms for Thousands of Injured Smokers

Posted by Jane Akre
Thursday, January 10, 2008 10:15 AM EST
Category: Major Medical, Protecting Your Family
Tags: Toxic Substances, Defective and Dangerous Products,

The deadline looms for thousands of smokers to file tobacco litigation


Thousands of injured Florida smokers are expected to file lawsuits in the state in the last of mass tobacco litigation against tobacco companies for smoking-related illnesses.

An estimated 5,000 to 10,000 cases will be filed in state and federal court under a January 11, 2008 deadline set by the state Supreme Court in 2006. 

That decision decertified the class-action punative verdict of $145 billion, the largest award ever granted against the tobacco companies, but directed injured smokers to file individual lawsuits.

Thousands of cases are expected to create a logistical nightmare for the state court systems which may have to open up a special tobacco divisions similar to the way asbestos cases were handled.   

Smokers who got sick from 1990 to 1996 are eligible to file suit naming R.J. Reynolds, Brown & Williamson, The American Tobacco Co, Philip Morris and Lorillard. 

The current claims arise from a class action lawsuit brought in Miami on behalf of thousands of Floridians.

The lawsuit, named for now-deceased pediatrician Howard Engle, found that  a) Tobacco companies were negligent; b) Their products are defective and unreasonably dangerous; c) Cigarettes are addictive; d) Cigarette companies conspired to conceal health and addiction information with the intention of consumer reliance on the misinformation; and e) Cigarette companies were liable for breach of express warranty.

The suit also established that cigarette smoke caused 16 different diseases including lung cancer, emphysema, heart disease, and others.

Re-proving negligence established by the Engle case will not have to be addressed in the individual trials. But litigants will have to prove that their illness was caused by tobacco use. They will also be judged on how much individual responsibility they have for smoking in the first place.  

Woody Wilner is the Jacksonville attorney who represents many of the plantiffs since he won a $750,000 damage on behalf of an Orange Park smoker in 1996. That was the first national damage award for smoking-related illnesses.

All Florida citizens and residents, and their survivors, who have suffered, presently suffer or who have died from a tobacco-related illnesses can file a lawsuit if the condition first manifested itself by the cut-off date of November 21, 1996.  

Clients range in age from their 40’s to their 90’s. Most were addicted to nicotine before their 16th birthday.

“Most of our clients are suffering from lung cancer or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, an umbrella term for bronchitis, emphysema and other lung disorders,” says Jacksonville attorney Eddie Farah, also representing many former smokers.

“Almost all tried for most of their lives, unsuccessfully, to break their addiction.”

257 deceased smokers are represented so far in the litigation in actions filed by their families. #


1 Comment

Anonymous User
Posted by Viki Ricisak
Thursday, January 10, 2008 8:48 PM EST

We have a father suffering from severe COPD. Please help us, we need to get him in the class action suit as the deadline is 1-11-08, please guide us. Where can we go for help? Many attorneys are not taking new clients. My father lives in Hollywood, Florida.


Viki Ricisak

Comments for this article are closed.

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